I take it this was a the district judge in Bucks or Mont cty. I actually live in Mont co. You need to speak with your attorney. The ARD program is a good program that allows the record to be expunged after the completion of the program. If I can be of help, you can email me.
Essentially, what you are asking for IS the ARD program. ARD is for people in your exact situation; first time offenders or people who have not offended within 10 years. Upon successful completion, the charges will be withdrawn and expunged, which is equivalent to never having been charged in the first place. Your letters about your good character will help you get in the program.
ARD is a good program, and seems like it would be beneficial to you.
I am going to assume that you mean the ARD program. As my colleague stated, the ARD program in either Montgomery or Bucks County is just for 1st time offenders. Each county has it's own requirements and guidelines for acceptance into ARD. It may well be that your lawyer is correct in suggesting it.
It is still a crime even if you pay the money back. The attorney may be communicating the only deal available, ARD, so listen to him.